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Legal Alert: SCOTUS Blocks Trump Administration from Ending DACA

Posted: 06/22/2020 | Employment, Business

On Thursday, June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Department of Homeland Security, et al. v. Regents of the University of California et al., blocking President Trump’s Administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program.

As a result of the court’s decision, the DACA program will remain in place. DACA provides a shield of deportation for those young adults accepted into the program, allows them access to work legally within the United States, and gives them access to other federal benefits. The court closes its opinion by stating that its main focus was not on deciding whether or not DACA or the rescission of DACA were sound policies, but rather addressing whether or not the agency complied correctly with procedures. Ultimately, the majority opinion sent the issue back to the Department of Homeland Security for reconsideration as to whether it wants to rescind the program, and if so, to offer a better explanation as to why.

DACA was introduced in 2012 during the Obama administration, and allows undocumented young adults who come to the United States as children to apply for a two-year forbearance of removal that can be renewed. DACA recipients are able to work in the United States but do not have a pathway to citizenship. In 2017, the Trump administration sought to remove the program on the grounds that it was illegal, and violated the Administrative Procedures Acts’ (“APA”) notice and comment requirement, the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), and the executive’s duty under the Take Care Clause of the Constitution.

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court held that the government acted improperly when it terminated the DACA program and that the decision was “arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.” The agency did not appropriately consider the reliance that had been created on the policy, not only on the individuals but also for their employer, community, etc.

In its opinion, the court first addressed whether courts generally have the power to review a decision to rescind the DACA program. The majority held that courts do in fact have the power to review an agency’s actions unless the actions fall within the discretion of the agency. Furthermore, the court stated DACA is not a passive non-enforcement agency, but rather a program that helps provide immigration relief.

Next, the court looked at whether or not the government was proper in its procedures to terminate the DACA program. The court explains that under the APA, the job of the court is to determine whether there has been a clear error of judgment. The majority opinion further states that an agency must defend its action based off of the reasons it gave when it acted.

From an employer’s standpoint, this decision could have a significant impact, depending on the number of employees with an organization who have depended on DACA employment authorization. This also may increase the number of potential employees who are eligible to benefit from the program, as well as the number of employees who may make themselves available to work for employers.

Macie Hinen, Intern

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